Revealing the sacred on 'Big Love' sparks discussion about ethics

The LDS Church -- and many of its members -- objected last spring when HBO's hit series "Big Love" depicted a plural wife participating in a temple ceremony, calling the episode an offensive act that trivialized a sacred practice.

But an entire context is needed to sanctify an image, gesture, ritual or event, said Alex Caldiero, and without its unique context, the sacred cannot be violated.

"The sacred sort of protects itself against any inappropriate, any misuse or any foul play by being so protected and encased in a context," said Caldiero, artist-in-residence at Utah Valley University in Orem. "What I mean by this is, it is a multimedia event. If you've just seen an aspect of it, you've not really seen or [experienced] the entire context of the sacred."

Caldiero's comments came Tuesday during a panel discussion of "Revealing the Sacred: Is it Ever Ethical? Big Love's Temple Scene & Portrayal of the Sacred," part of Ethics Awareness Week sponsored by the university's Center for the Study of Ethics.

"Big Love," now entering its fourth season, chronicles the life of a polygamous family living in Utah. Its March 15 episode showed the endowment ceremony in an LDS temple as part of a plural wife's struggle with being excommunicated from the mainstream Mormon faith.

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